Those of us in St. Lawrence County have been hearing a lot lately about whether or not New York state will keep the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg open as a “Regional Center of Excellence“, or whether it will close the center. That’s no surprise: The center employs more than 500 people and serves many who might otherwise have to travel as far as Syracuse or Utica for care.
(Here are a few comments from the public on the possible closure of the St. Lawrence center.) The New York State Office of Mental Health has said it will announce its plan July 8.
But as an article in the Watertown Daily Times reminds us, St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center isn’t the only place that’s on tenterhooks as the state gets its funding plans ready — organizations like Ogdensburg’s Seaway House are waiting, too. The organization, which is part of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Ogdensburg, opened in 1988, as the state was making a push away from institutionalization for people with mental illness, and toward community-based care. It emphasizes getting people with mental illness into volunteer positions in local communities.
It began serving just a few clients; today it serves 70 people in St. Lawrence County, on a budget of $326,000 — a budget that program director Carol Whitcombe says has been cut by $36,000 in the last several years, even as enrollment has increased. Whitcombe says she expects enrollment to increase more as New York moves further away from a residency-based model for psychiatric care (it’s thought that the OMH will close some residential psychiatric facilities going forward.)
So it seems the OMH, which hasn’t revealed its plan yet but which clearly feels that New York’s current 24 inpatient facilities is too many, plans to close some of those in favor of non-residential treatment. The question is, will it fund organizations that provide non-residential treatment? We’ll have to wait and see.